Cleveland Cavalier Kyrie Irving took over the 2012 Rising Star's Challenge, scoring 34 points and sinking all eight of his three pointers. This year, he scored 32 points while sinking another four three-pointers before he took home the three-point shooting crown, beating sharp shooter Matt Bonner in the process. In two NBA All-Star weekends, Irving has left a lasting impression on basketball browsers' brains. Displaying a complete arsenal mixed with handles, shooting, crossovers and fearlessness, Irving might be on the verge of taking over the NBA's No. 1 spot for point guards. But is he already there? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: When you think about point guards you think about guys who can run a ball club, initiate offense and get teammates easy baskets. Irving fits the bill because he can do all of those things but the fact is he doesn't do them as well as guys like Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. Irving's more of a scorer trapped in a point guard's body and his career averages of 5.5 assists per night prove exactly that. You have to dish the rock to be labeled as a true point guard and although we're getting another full display of Irving's game this All-Star Weekend, we might be seeing Allen Iverson 2.0: an elite scorer operating out of the point-guard position.
Green: Basketball is about scoring and no other point guard does that better than Irving. How much can we fault a guy for averaging just 5.5 assists when he's playing for the lowly Cavaliers? If you could only take one sample of Irving's game, and that's from this weekend, then we've seen enough and it's clear who really is the league's best point guard. It's been a long time since we've seen a scorer of this magnitude enter the lead. He shoots five times as better as Iverson but still has the quicks and elite handle only possessed by the NBA's best. I won't down him for not dishing. If I was the best player on the Cleveland Cavs it would be hard for me to pass too. I'll take Irving right now to run my club.
Riley: Would you take Irving right now over Chris Paul?
Green: Absolutely! I clearly can't see the big difference between Paul and Irving. I know one can flat out score and that's this kid out of Cleveland. I also know that Irving is barely scratching the surface at just 20 years old and is only in his second year in the NBA.
Riley: Guys like Paul and Rondo are championship caliber point guards. Even Russell Westbrook gives you the scoring out of the point guard position but has guided his team to an NBA Finals appearance. We tend to get wooed by the next flashy thing to touch a basketball. Irving's really good but saying you would take him over Paul is just ridiculous. Cleveland's record (16-37) is still horrible even with the great Irving running the show so how much stock can we put into a "dominant scorer" when his team is 20-plus games below .500?
Green: There's literally zero talent in Cleveland outside of Irving and a couple of players. You can't trick me, Riley, into blaming Irving for a lackluster roster. Even Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls struggled his first few seasons while they were trying to acquire talent. There are no limits on this kid. He's owned the past two Rising Stars Challenges and he's set to make his debut as an NBA All-Star this Sunday. He's clearly the best and purest scorer out of the point guard position and once he starts to get more talent around him you'll see how legit this pick is.
Riley: I still hold a spot for Paul as the league's best point guard because his shooting, quickness, passing and handles are still unmatched. No way could Irving run a team as well as Paul can and his career 9.8 assists proves that. He's basically averaging 10 assists per game for his career and has guided some pretty flawed New Orleans teams deep into playoff contention. Until Irving makes a playoff game I think I'll hold my praise.